Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Hermes Lite 2 arrives: QRP PC + QRP SDR

A few weeks ago I bought a cheap mini-PC as a way to learn Linux. I liked it so much that I bought another mini-PC, this one with "the works" - an AMD Ryzen 7840 processor, 2 TB SSD and 32GB of RAM.

The power supply is a 30W wall-wart.

The small-footprint shack computer

I'm impressed with them both. 4k video editing with the new mini-PC: smooth as silk.

Naturally, I've been looking for a radio to pair with it...

Fast forward to Dayton Hamvention. I was hoping for OL-SDR or Flex to announce something amazing so that I could have a PC-controlled QRP SDR rig to do duty apart from my stand-alone rigs. Things like 10/12-meter WSPR, experimenting with Linux SDR software as a way of learning the operating system, 3rd-party connectivity (skimmer, RBN, etc), the ability to access the radio remotely, etc.

The list goes on.

But the OL-SDR seems more and more like vaporware and Flex seems to have no interest in a QRP rig - their 1500 was discontinued many moons ago.

What I like about the mini-PC's is also true of many (no longer made) SDR transceivers: they offer a ton of functionality and customization possibilities in a tiny foot print.

Think of the front panel real estate that would be necessary to accommodate the functions of Thetis (screenshot).

Thetis software will run the HL2

The new rig that arrived today is an oldie-but-goodie - an open-source Hermes Lite 2.

It will do everything I need it to do for about $330. That price includes the transceiver as well as the "optional" LP filter board and aluminum case.

I built one of these rigs a few years ago for a friend but didn't tinker with it beyond making sure that it worked. At the time, I had two other SDR rigs and no interest in having a third one.

The HL2 has a good following of devoted fans, excellent support and many upgrades available, including one that makes it an HL2 Plus, which makes it a better CW rig and allows for smooth integration with a Hardrock-50 amp (which I have already).

Little did I realize how much I'd miss the versatility offered by a PC-controlled rig. And all at an economical price.

The requirement of a PC is certainly a restriction, but one with many advantages that I only realized once I no longer had them available; namely, that there are too many opportunities to experiment for me not to have a PC-controlled SDR rig.

20 minutes later:






  1. The Hermes is right at the top of my bucket list of things to try. I am very interested in getting your take on how it works on CW.

    Jim KF9VV

    1. Hi Jim - it'll be a while before I get to CW with this rig. I leave town in a few days and am gearing up for that. In the meantime, the HL2 is doing fantastic on the digital modes. Set-up was easy and intuitive and I'm getting 5-8W out on all bands.

      Both CW and SSB sound good, ie the BW filtering seems to be very effective. SSB NR is remarkable - enabling NR2 makes SSB sound almost like FM. I think you've used PowerSDR (or similar) and know what I mean.

      I ordered the Plus option this morning, which is said to make the rig more CW-friendly. I'm anxious to find out. So far, I really like the radio.